When Saves The Day went into the studio to record its fourth album, the New Jersey-based quartet was working for L.A.-based independent Vagrant Records. When the album was completed, the band found itself with a crisper, fuller sound. Gone was the band’s scrappy pop punk, and in its place were radio-ready guitar riffs, sunny harmonies and vocals that were sung rather than screamed. As Saves the Day soon realized, the band had recorded an album that would likely please the ears of major label executives.
So Saves The Day began shopping for a new label. The album the band had just finished, “In Reverie,” was to be the group’s last for emo-central Vagrant, home to Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio and the Get Up Kids, among others. As lead singer/songwriter Christopher Conley tells Billboard.com, Saves the Day wanted to gauge its options. Additionally, Conley has some superstar ambitions, albeit with reservations.
“My goal is to have everyone on the planet hear our music, and I’m not afraid of that,” Conley says. “It has nothing to do with getting my face on a magazine. Actually, that terrifies me because I’m pretty insecure. So I don’t necessarily want that face recognition, but I want to share this album with as many people as possible.”
“In Reverie” was released last month on Vagrant and DreamWorks, with the major label providing much of the marketing push. While the whole planet has yet to hear Saves The Day, “In Reverie” became the band’s highest-charting set on The Billboard 200, arriving at No. 27. The group’s 2001 album, “Stay What You Are,” peaked at No. 100.
“DreamWorks heard it, and wanted to put it out for themselves, but for us, it was important to maintain some connection to Vagrant,” Conley says. “We thought it was important because Vagrant helped us so much. The people at the label really supported us as a band and they were understanding of what we were trying to do as a band. We were lucky to be at Vagrant playing with their bands at a time when there wasn’t much for kids to relate to in popular music. There’s been a dearth of sincerity and honesty and real feelings in music.”
The appeal of Saves The Day, and much of the acts that have been on Vagrant in recent years, for that matter, is the “real feelings” that Conley speaks of. Saves The Day may sound nothing like Dashboard Confessional, but fans hang onto every word Conley writes, studiously pouring through his diary-worthy lyrics.
The band has always had a bit more bite in its sentiments than the band’s emo peers, but for “In Reverie,” Conley says the only relationship that influenced his writing was his one with the Beatles.
“I try to let lyrics happen,” Conley says. “I don’t manhandle them too much. Once I have a song and a melody, I just sit with a pen and paper and see what comes out. As far as my songwriting goes, I definitely have a better sense of song structure now than I did in the past. I would credit that mainly to listening to the Beatles a lot more. Melodies just pop into my brain, so I don’t want to take too much credit for them.”
When it comes to doling out credit, Conley points straight to producer Rob Schnapf, who’s worked with the likes of Beck, the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. The band first hooked up with him for “Stay What You Are,” but Conley says the second time around was far more fulfilling, and says Schnaph is the one who taught him how to sing, honing in Conley’s sometimes boyish yell into something a bit more tuneful.
“When we worked on all our other albums, I really had to strain to hit notes,” Conley says. “I was stuck in this sort of punk rock vocal delivery. Working with Rob, he helped me figure out that I didn’t have to strain. He taught me how to relax.
“This was the first time we ever had an enjoyable experience in the studio,” Conley continues. “We had two months to record it, and that was more than we’ve ever had before, and the songs sounded so good off the tape that we really confident we were making an album we could be proud of.”
Indeed, when the band linked with DreamWorks, Conley says the group insisted the album be released by the end of the year. This meant that “In Reverie,” which had been completed in April, would not be afforded the full pre-release hype that major label money can buy. Yet Conley wasn’t interested in any of that.
“It was pretty much crunch time getting everything organized,” he says. “DreamWorks was freaking out a little because they’re used to having a lot more time. We didn’t even see the album all put together till it was in stores, but we wanted to play these songs live while they were still fresh.”
Saves the Day is currently touring with Taking Back Sunday and Moneen. The three will be on the road through the end of November.